Love, someone said, makes the world go around. Maybe so. But I know this: sacrificial love makes the kingdom of God appealing to others. Love wins people, sometimes when nothing else will.
I have often said that the irreducible minimum of God’s commands is, Love your neighbor as yourself. But what does it look like when you love your neighbor?
Many years ago I had a neighbor who responded to love. Let’s call him Dale. He lived next door. Dale didn’t like Christians, God or the church. He had issues with alcohol, was unemployed, behind in his taxes, and depressed. He stayed mostly in the house with curtains drawn. And he didn’t take care of his lawn. It was unwatered, untrimmed and littered.
I, on the other hand, enjoy working in the garden. On the weekends as I work in my yard I imagine myself not as “Bob” but “Adam” – placed there to manage The Garden. I do this with joy. So, with great care and pride I trim bushes and trees, plant flowers, carefully mow the lawn, and water.
One day I was complaining to the Lord about my neighbor’s yard, asking him to motivate Dale to at least clean it up. I distinctly remember the Spirit answering that I should do it. Partially motivated by the embarrassment of having his unkempt lawn next to mine, I did as instructed. I did not ask Dale’s permission. I just did it.
The next week as I finished working in my garden, I sensed the Spirit say, “You’re not finished.” I’m very thorough in this task. I asked the Lord, “What am I not finished with?”
“You haven’t done Dale’s yard.”
The unspoken dialogue went something like this:
“I did Dale’s yard last week.”
“This is not last week. Clean his yard.”
So I did. In fact, I regularly did it for more than a year and a half. Occasionally Dale would come out, offer a beverage, and talk. His topic might be politics, his personal problems, his broken lawnmower.
What happens when you love your neighbor?
One night I heard a knock at my door. It was Dale. I invited him in and asked how I could help. He had a question, “Why have you been cleaning my yard?”
I was tempted to say, “I’ve been waiting for you to ask that question for more than a year,” but I didn’t. Instead, I said something about Jesus asking me to do it. That conversation led to our having coffee and talking about the One who had asked me to care for his yard.
Then, not long after we began meeting, Dale and his family moved. We didn’t know where they had gone, and we lost contact.
But almost 15 years later, Dale called and invited my wife and me to dinner in their new home. As we arrived I noticed how clean and nice his yard was. We had a wonderful meal and conversation. At the end of the meal Dale told me why he had invited us.
“I no longer drink. I have settled my issues with taxes. I have a great job. I’ve met Jesus. I am a leader in my church. And the reason is that you cleaned my yard.”
I was blown away!
Then Dale had one more surprise. On weekends he cleans his neighbor’s yards.
Obedient, sacrificial love can work wonders!
Love your neighbor and watch what happens!
- Bob Moffit